During a four-week period in August, 237 Florida nursing home residents died of COVID-19, according to a new report released by the senior advocacy group AARP.
It made Florida tied for the highest death rate in the nation, during that period. The report only focuses on licensed nursing homes.
Nursing homes are required to submit information to the federal Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services. The same data was used for the report, according to Jeff Johnson, the Director of AARP Florida.
The report also showed 13 Florida nursing home staff members died of COVID-19 during the same period, which ended Aug. 22.
“I mean, it’s unfortunate that Florida has been the lead of where things are really bad for several months on a variety of measures,” Johnson said.
The report shows 73.6% of Florida’s nursing home residents are fully vaccinated — making it the third-lowest in the country. When it comes to nursing home staff, the numbers are worse — 48.5% of Florida nursing home staff members are fully vaccinated, according to the report. Only Louisiana is lower with 47.9%
“We have been saying for the last several months, if this isn’t addressed, if we don’t see an increase in vaccinations, it’s really likely that Florida is going to be a leader in the number of cases and unfortunately the number of fatalities,” Johnson said.
The State of Florida stopped releasing daily COVID-19 statistics several months ago, but, according to the Florida Department of Health’s last report on May 28th, there were 11,506 COVID-19 related deaths in long-term care facilities in the state.
The Florida Healthcare Association which represents nearly 700 nursing homes and assisted living facilities in the state sent News 6 a statement in response to the AARP report.
Here is the statement in full:
“Florida’s nursing centers have put forth tremendous efforts to keep both their residents and staff safe since the beginning of the pandemic, and they continue to do so. They have maintained their infection control protocols, and staff are still wearing masks; are conducting regular testing and everyday screening before entry (including taking temperatures); and are able to mitigate spread through the use of COVID isolation wings. Facilities are better managing this virus and its impact on residents and staff, and the data is already showing a downward trend in cases. In the week of August 29, cases among residents and staff declined, and today, more than 98% of residents and staff in our facilities remain COVID-free.
Our centers are doing everything in their power to encourage staff to get vaccinated, including offering incentives, and staff vaccination rates are improving, if more slowly than we would prefer. Much of the hesitancy we’re seeing in staff is similar to what is seen in our communities, where a portion of the population remains hesitant to get vaccinated. We believe this situation will improve based on President Biden’s directive to make vaccinations a requirement among nursing center staff.
It’s easy for AARP and others to look on from afar - with no direct involvement in the day-to-day operations of a nursing center - and cast judgment. Perhaps instead of producing alarmist reports and reaching conclusions, they should try offering real-world solutions, such as initiatives that will help increase vaccination rates in our communities and encourage individuals to seek a career in long term care to help address our workforce shortages.”